Friday, March 30, 2007

Iraq Thought Experiment 1

Imagine that a large number of Democrats and Republicans with no memory of of the last six years were plopped down into a possible world in which the U.S. was engaged in a war in Iraq identical to ours. They have no idea how we got there, who made the decision to take us in, who the President was, who controlled Congress, etc. However they have all the information we have about the facts on the ground in Iraq.

(A) What percentage of our imaginary Democrats would vote (i) to stay indefinitely? (ii) To stay for a year? (iii) To leave immediately?

What percentage of our imaginary Republicans would (i) vote to stay indefinitely? (ii) To stay for a year? (iii) To leave?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"The distinction between 'political' and 'performance-related' reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely artificial"

I...I...I...I'm literally sitting here with my jaw hanging open. Literally. Right now. Hanging open. I don't know what to say about this. Sometimes there's nothing you can say that's clearer or more damning than the statement itself.

I thought it was no longer possible for me to be astonished by...what to call this...some toxic stew of badness and idiocy...apparently a denial of the very distinction between justice and politics.

Coincidentally, I've just been shredding "feminist epistemology" in my epistemology class, and was recently reading Susan Haack's nice summary of the view's failings in "Knowledge and Propaganda: Reflections of an Old Feminist." The real problem with feminist epistemology, as Haack notes, isn't that it's feminist, it's that it's political at all. Left-wing, right-wing, feminist, masculist, whatever--the mistake is made when politics of any kind is introduced.

A similar point can, of course, be made about moral theory...or about the pursuit of justice in the courts.

I guess we really are living in the age of the postmodern presidency.

"One Giant Undifferentiated Scandal"

Eve Fairbanks, at TNR; the money quote at Drum's digs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Emerson, Nature
Brought to Mind After an Hour Spent Alone, Hypnotized by South River Falls

"In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, — master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature."

-- Emerson, Nature

Monday, March 26, 2007

Incompetence, Dishonesty, and Contempt for Expertise

Here's Drum on the incompetence question, especially re: the Justice Department. Pointing back to John DiIulio's early criticisms of the administration, Drum notes that " George Bush and his team practically ooze contempt for the naive conceit that policy analysis is a serious business."


They seem to view anybody who, ya know, knows anything with abject contempt.

But also note: Gonzalesgate is not about incompetence, no matter how hard some are going to try to spin it that way. It's about dishonesty. This is the same kind of move some have tried to pull when writing of the Bush administration in if these were all good guys who just couldn't handle the complexity of the task.

But it just ain't so. There's incompetence, sure...but that's not the main problem. The administration's main problems are moral, not technical. It's not like the Justice Department got all confused by the complexity of the question "is it o.k. to fire people for political reasons?"

This is all just part of a general strategy that goes something like this:

(1) Deny any error. (2) Attack anyone who questions you (focus especially on their patriotism and sanity). If everyone on the entire planet sees through (1) and (2), then (3) pretend you made an innocent mistake.

Carolina Blue

That's how I'm feelin' today.

On another sappy note, JQ tells me that that's also the color that pretty much the whole campus turned out in today.

O.k. I'm shutting up about this now.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Congrats to the Heels on a Great Season
and to G'town for Getting to the Final Four

Damn! I wanted US to win! It's way more fun that way...

Oh, man, I love this team. What a fun season, what a treat to have gotten to watch these guys play. When they were hitting on all cylinders, they were nigh on unstoppable, and just about the most fun team to watch of any I've ever seen.

Congrats to Georgetown, too, on a good game, and on getting to the Final Four.

(Yes, I know Carolina c-h-o-k-e-d. [Make that "melted down" or something...I didn't want it to seem like I hadn't noticed that they went 2-for-23 at one point, but 'choked' suggests some kind of culpability or something, which I didn't intend]. No, I don't want to talk about it. They're an unbelievably young team. It happens.)

Go Tar Heels!

O.k., no need to read this one...just can't control myself.

I breathed a sigh when Kansas went down. The sigh was half sadness, since I think KU is a great team and a great program, and that, as in years past, they could have very easily gone a lot farther than they actually went. And it was half relief, since they were the only team in the country that I was genuinely afraid of. At this point, basically anybody who's left can beat anybody who's left on the right night, but Kansas was capable of slicing and dicing in ways that gave me nightmares. I would have loved to see them play the Heels, but I wouldn't want to bet any money on that game.

USC played a fantastic game Friday night, and congrats to them for it. I'll admit I was getting pretty damn worried when they were still hitting on all cylinders and up 16 points well into the second half. We couldn't get the ball inside without facing a triple-team, and we couldn't hit from three to open things up. And nothing--nothing--seemed to be going Carolina's way. I hate to agree with Billy Packer about anything, but I'll admit that I couldn't figure out why Roy didn't go zone either. But Roy pulled a Dean and stuck with his carefully-formulated plan, and in the end it worked. Not rocket science, though, with this team; the basic plan goes like this: run until the other guys fall down.

And how 'bout that Marcus Ginyard, eh?

These Heels are so much damn fun to watch that I'm going to be sad when the season is over no matter what.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Illegal Immigration
Since When Am I a Conservative?

Maybe it's just me, but I find myself less and less sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants in this country. It seems like every other day I have to see or hear some activist or other screeching incoherently about how, in effect, anyone who thinks that it's o.k. to have immigration laws is a reactionary (and probably a racist). I'm well aware of the dangers of letting the demeanor of activists effect one's political positions, but it's getting harder and harder for me to tamp down my reactions.

I'm not a against legal immigrants, and I'm not even in favor of any particularly draconian measures against illegals. But, try as I might, I can't see anything wrong with securing the border, I can't see anything wrong with the fence, and I can't see anything wrong with arresting people who are here illegally and explaning to them that they've gotta go home and come back legally. I know the situation is complex, and I'm perfectly willing to have flexible laws that reflect that fact. But unless one thinks that the nation-state is an immoral entity, I don't see how one can think that it's impermissible to secure borders against illegal immigration.

Now, I'm perfectly willing to listen to arguments on these points, and willing to be rationally persuaded. But the folks I've been seeing, hearing, and reading are not doing their cause any good. I heard a story on NPR the other day--delivered in that typically breathy NPR way--that only made sense if it presupposed that it was rarely or never permissible to enforce immigration laws at all. Then I went home and turned on the News Hour only to find two people having roughly the following discussion:

Him: Blah blah, blah, the President's amnesty plan.

Her: (voice dripping with derision and anger) It isn't amnesty!

Him: Uh, yeah it is.

Her: No it isn't! These are hard-working people! They love their families!

Him: Yeah, see, I'm not denying that. I'm just saying that Bush's plan amounts to amnesty.

Her: It is not!!! These are hard-working people! They love their families.


Now, I'm not sure whether it's amnesty or not...but I am sure that whether or not these are hard-working people who love their families is irrelevant to determining the answer to that question.

More and more it sounds to me like people are demanding that we let them have their way on this issue. This might be understandable if our policies were clearly immoral...but they aren't. So it isn't. And I don't like being told what to do in such cases.

Um, anybody else out there having this reaction, or is it just me (and JQ)? If it's just us, what are we missing here?
The Surge: Working?

Maybe, says the NY Post (note: not an actual news source).

Though when one sees the list of tactics that are allegedly turning things around, one wonders how it is that it took four years to figure this stuff out. E.g., apparently we're now trying to "bring the locals onto our side," and emphasizing protecting gathering places such as markets. Now, I'm not expert on this sort of thing, but if you'd have asked me four years ago what we should be concentrating on, I'm fairly sure this is the kind of thing I would have suggested.

Nevertheless, great big good on General Petraeus.
Give 'Em Hell, Purgegate Edition

Looks like the Damnocrats have suddently evolved into vertebrates and plan to suggest to Mr. Bush that this may not be a monarchy after all.

Give 'em hell, boys. Bush's despicable performance yesterday came pretty close to moving me from the I think he maybe should be impeached camp directly to the impeach his ass and throw him in the slammer camp, without even a brief stop in the simple ITMFA camp.

I'm sick of the nefarious dealings of this contemptable and odious band of (as my old PoliSci prof Tom Israel would say) ne'er-do-wells. I'm well past giving them the benefit of the doubt, past trying to fish around for possibly benign motives, past pretending that these people are worthy of any respect, past constantly second-guessing myself on the off chance that I'm motivated by partisanship.

These guys are loathsome, power-hungry morons hell-bent on amassing power and pushing their radically partisan agenda. If a Democratic administration had done half of the dirty dealings that this bunch has done I'd be suggesting impeachment. Conservatives, of course, would be suggesting execution.

So here's to Leahy and Conyers--may the subpoenas begin pouring forth even as the Spring rains onto the...the...the...very rainy place, where much Spring rain falls.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


When I heard that a movie about Thermopylae was coming out, I was psyched. When I heard that it was a radical fictionalization, less so. After I read the NYT review of the movie, I didn't even care much whether I saw it or not. (Best line in the review (not an exact quote): The Persians had superior numbers, but the Spartans obviously had superior health clubs and electrolysis.)) Then I heard that the movie pissed off the Iranians, so JQ and I rushed right out to see it.

Well, I'm a person who sometimes gets choked up about Thermopylae while, say, walking down the street or brushing my teeth--so my reactions are probably unreliable here. And that was true even before I went there. I've stood on not a few battlfields--Yorktown, Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg, others--but standing at Thermopylae was the most overwhelming experience of them all. Who knows how these things work? Like most of us, it's not like I generally categorize the Spartans as admirable. I guess it's complicated.

As for the movie: well, I don't know anything about movies. I've seen worse ones... 300 has something going for it, even if it's goofy in a bunch of ways. For one thing, it may be the most metrosexual movie of all time. Jeez, it almost makes The Covenant look downright blue collar... I mean these guys have some abs! Largely air-brushed on, but still. And their armor is kept to a minimum. Sticklers for historical accuracy might point out that the Greeks kicked ass at Thermopylae largely because of their heavier armor...but these hoplites wear only leather speedos and red capes. Those pesky breastplates would just occlude shots of their pecs. And, while we're carping about historical accuracy: in the movie, Leonidas doesn't die until the end, Xerxes neither beheads or crucifies the body, everybody but the Spartans (which, in the movie, means just the Arcadians) runs away before the last stand. Perhaps most disappointingly from a narrative perspective, when Xerxes asks Leonidas to surrender his arms, Leonidas doesn't say "come and get them." (Heh heh. Our boys were way cooler than the doubt about that. They had bad-assitude to spare.)

So why is Iran all bent out of shape, one wonders? Do they deny that Xerxes was an aggressive tyrant? Or do they think aggressive tyranny is o.k.? Do they deny that the Greeks beat their asses like a two dollar donkey? Or what?

Well, my theory is that they're mad because 300 makes it look like even our over-pumped-up gay guys can beat up anything Persia can throw at 'em--war rhinos, ninjas, elephants the size of ultrasauruses, giant guys with bone saws for forearms...anything! But according to 300, Xerxes looked a lot like RuPaul, so the thesis really seems to be something more like: Greeks of ambiguous sexuality can beat up the lackies of probably-transexual tyrants from Persia. And, really, who can argue with that?

Anyway, for all its silliness, I walked out of 300 all choked up, thinking about all the people who had died over the millenia to forge a world that allows me to live my puny and frivolous life, buying two dollar coffee, getting paid to blather on about philosophy, yelling at basketball games on T.V. as if something consequential were actually at stake. 300 isn't Citizen Kane, but maybe a movie that gets more people to reflect on what the Spartans, Arcadians, Thespians, Corinthians and Thebans did at Thermopylae is a good thing .

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Grade Inflation Whining

Some info on my own university I just bumped into:

In the past ten years here:

1. SAT scores of entering freshmen have declined somewhat.


2. Drinking has increased markedly.

Now, SAT scores are positively correlated with GPA, and drinking is negatively correlated. So one would predict, of course, that GPAs here would have gone down over the relevant period. But, in fact:

3. GPAs have gone up.

Good News From Iraq?

Andrew Sullivan links to a story that goes all 404y when one tries to get it.

Probably too good to be true...but stranger things have happened. Cross yer fingers, pray, sacrifice a goat, or whatever it is you do. Maybe, just maybe, this won't turn from a disaster into a mega-giga-hyper-disaster.

As you know, I've been very tentatively pro-surge...while admitting that I don't actually have a right to an opinion here, that the weight of expert opinion is against me, etc., etc. I still admit that I've got no right to speak on this, and that no one should in any way even think about taking my opinion on this seriously, and so forth. But I have to say, it isn't going to surprise me all that much if Petraeus's plan does some serious good. I'm not gonna bet the farm on it...but it's better, sez me, than giving up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization, 3/14/07 Edition:
Grade Inflation and Half-Assedness

I know I complain about this too much, but I think it's a serious problem. Many of my students expect 'A's and 'B's for work that does not even rise to the level of mediocrity. I'm not a terribly hard grader, but I'm not an easy grader, either. I tell students to explain points on exams as they would if they were explaining them to "an intelligent person who is interested in the subject but has not had a philosophy class." I get back some stellar answers, but many mediocre ones, and many just godawful ones.

Just as an example:
In discussing a particular version of the cosmolgical argument for the existence of God, we discuss "dependent beings." Now, a dependent being is just an ordinary old being of the kind we ordinarily encounter in the world. The technical definition we use (following William Rowe) is as follows:

A dependent being is a being such that its existence is explained by the causal activity of another being.

Roughly, such beings exist because other beings brought them into existence. But on many exams, what I get back is something like this:

A dependent beings depends on something. [sic]

This is a half-assed answer at best. In what way are such beings dependent? Causally? Logically? Another way? On what do they depdend? Another being? Something else?

By itself such half-assedness is not a huge deal. But explaining what a dependent being is is just the most basic part of the answers in question. It's the basic "gimme" stuff that everybody should be able to get exactly right. I mean, it's straight from the reading, and I've probably said it in class about fifty or sixty times over the course of the two weeks it takes us to discuss the cosmological argument. Definitions like that form the foundation upon which they are supposed to be able to construct coherent answers about the argument.

Now, imagine the half-assed sentence above surrounded by even more half-assed--say, 1/4-assed or 1/8ths-assed--sentences, and you'll get some idea of what some of these answers look like. If they can't even get the simple definitions they've heard over and over again for two weeks right...well, then you might imagine what the more difficult stuff looks like.

Now add to this incredulity at the fact that they do not get 'A's for the answers composed of these half-and-rather-less-than-half-assed sentences and you'll get some idea of what it's like to be a professor in the contemporary university.

The students are partially to blame, but moreso the professors who are distorting their expectations by giving them 'A's and 'B's for this kind of crap. Why do professors give high grades for bad work? Some likely explanations: (1) It's easier to grade if you give high grades (students never question 'A's, and don't expect comments on 'A' papers); (2) Students like easy profs, hence classes are more enjoyable; (3) Many profs live or die with "student evaluation" scores, and easier classes and higher grades tend to produce higher scores; (4) Many profs just aren't that good at what they do, so they can't expect much from their students in return.

(Just to forestall any suspicions about sour grapes here, let me point out that my student evaluation scores tend to be high despite my non-easiness.)

Anyway, despite the generally unimpressive level of much student work, 75% of the students in our College of Arts and Letters get 'A's or 'B's in their general education courses. The GPA at my university has gone up over the last ten years, even as SAT scores of the freshmen have gone down somewhat, and (according to the folks over at our Office of Institutional Research) drinking has increased.

In my more depressed moods, I often think that college is little more than 13th-16th grades. Most students matriculate because it's just the next thing to's what their parents expect of them, it's what their friends are doing...and it's where the best parties are. Many of them aren't curious and aren't interested in learning, and their professors give them high grades for, basically, nothing. If they graduate any better-off than they were when they came here it's just a happy accident.

And, let me stress, this is a notably above-average school.

O.k., enough whining for now.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Congrats to State and Carolina

Congrats to N.C. State for a great run in the ACC tournament, and to Carolina for winning it. It's been a long, strange drought for UNC, but all that seems to be over.

The final game was one of the most enjoyable I've watched in a long time, and I'll bet I speak for all Carolina fans when I say that I think we were fortunate to have won. If State hadn't had to play one more game than Carolina, things might very well have gone the other way.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Go Tar Heels

Go Tar Heels.

That is all.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Baudrillard Exits This Hyperreality of Tears

Jeez, I really wish I'd have thought of that Onion headline, Derrida "Dies"...

One should try to avoid speaking too ill of the recently dead. But, seriously, sectors of academia are in a sorry state indeed if they take Baudrillard seriously. I'm sure he was a nice man, but a great thinker he was not.

Baudrillard was famous primarily for his book The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. It's not worth reading, but you can understand a bit about postmodernism/poststructuralism by attending for a second to what he meant. The title of the book is hyperbolic and misleading. He apparently didn't think that the war was a hoax--like, ya, know, the "moon landing"...but, rather, held a variety of other very loosely-related quasi-semantic positions. For example: he was apparently asserting that the Gulf War was not a war. (Why? Well, apparently in part because it wasn't like previous wars, so it doesn't count as a war; and also because there was so much media coverage that...mumble mumble the media coverage was mumble mumble more important than the real war, so mumble mumble, the "Gulf War" wasn't a war...hey, your shoe's untied...)

Here's the PoMo modus operandi: say a bunch of stuff. Make sure some of it is preposterous, and some of it is obvious. When speaking to other PoMo types, or trying to prove how innovative you are, emphasize the preposterous stuff. When pushed to defend your position by obdurate, retrograde, logocentricists--like actual philosophers or scientists--fall back to the obvious stuff and pretend that that's all you ever meant, that only a fool would interpret all that preposterous stuff at face value. The academic bait-and-switch.

Tragic waste of the human spirit, that stuff.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, 3/8/2008 Edition

O.k., so Johnny Quest and I own this Taurus, which our friend Peter the Public Defender "sold" to us several years back. (The scare quotes are because he only let us give him $750 for a car that was worth at least $2k, and we had to haggle him up to that amount.) About a year ago, this guy ran through a stoplight and creamed the driver's side door. Insurance gave us some cash for it, and, since we'd gotten years of yeoman-like service out of the mighty (and virtually free) Taurus, we started thinking about donating the insurance $$ to, e.g., Katrina relief--which made a certain amount of sense, since Peter the PD, aforementioned, is from New Orleans. Then the transmission went out on our other car. Then the guy who owned the car that hit us claimed that the guy who was driving the car that hit us was driving without permission (a patent lie). Blah, blah, blah. So Geico could never get our deductable back from the guy who hit us, and our charitable dispositions started to be replaced by crankiness.

Now we have another car, and I wanted to give the mighty Taurus to NPR and be done with it, but JQ insisted we give it to the poor. So she drives it over to Durham to try to give it to the people-who-give-cars-to-poor-people, and they wouldn't take it. Then on the way back she gets two tickets b/c--since we're not driving the car--we'd let the tags and inspection lapse.

So then I come down to Chapel Hill to find the title and finally get this car business taken care of. JQ moves the Taurus out of one of the parking spots, leaving it in a generic, anybody-can-park-here spot in her condominium complex. End Taurus part of the story temporarily.

So yesterday morning I go out to pick up some orange juice in the morning (driving the other car), and when I come back, my neighbors are parked in my spot, b/c they're loading up for a trip. No sweat, says me, load away, I'll park on the other side of the road for a few minutes (note: not in an actual parking spot, completely out of the way. There're plenty of such places's not exactly urban.). I come back a little later, and the car's been towed. $160 to get it back. There may have been some yelling at the towing guy, but he was nice, so I apologized.

Then this morning we went out to finally get the Taurus into the hands of the people-who-give-cars-to-drug-addicts (apparently they are less picky than the people-who-give-cars-to-poor-people), and it's been towed. 'Nuther $160 to get it back. Apparently you can't park in one of the generic spots overnight. Now, if it weren't worth way more than $160, I'd have just gone and stolen the tags back and been done with it. Ah, well.

So $320 completely down the drain for no good reason in two days. Then there's the $$ for the tickets. Perhaps not much money by the absurdly out-of-whack standards of the contemporary American middle class, but a substantial chunk of change by our standards.

A lesser man would get downright cranky about this.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Scientology/"Dead Agenting"

So, as you probably realize, Scientology is fond of trying to discredit anyone who discusses the evil stuff they do. Turns out they even have a name for it: dead agenting. Um, does that term make any sense at all? Or does it just sound vaguely cool and menacing? Sounds like something Mr. Cruise might make up for one of those lame-ass Mission Impossible movies...

Oh, and the name of the division that usually takes care of the "dead agenting" tasks? The Office of Special Affairs, a.k.a. Department 20. Maybe they should call them einsatzgruppen.

This sort of thing is consistent with the rest of Scientology. It's basically a slew of childish terminology that (badly) imitates the kind of terminology you'd find in e.g. psychology. I tried reading that book Dianetics once, back in high school. The mother of one of my friends had fallen into it after this friend's father died, and I thought I'd check it out. It was laughably sophomoric even from the perspective of a reasonably bright high school student. Too dopey, in fact, to sustain interest past the first couple of sections. Anybody who can't see through that ridiculous garbage is in a bad way indeed.

And my friend's mother? Well, see, she was pressured to keep buying more and more materials--books, audio tapes, video tapes, etc. She eventually had thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of them. She also eventually literally lost the farm. Coincidence?

On the other hand, I guess I didn't see that it was all that much crazier than other religions with which I'm familiar... And I'll bet scientology has killed fewer people than most other religions. So I guess there's that...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Open Letter To CPAC from The American Mind, re: Ann Coulter

Well, there's this.

A few thoughts follow:

1. Sometimes it seems that the first rule of politics is: never admit you or your allies are wrong. And the first corollary of that rule is: EVER. So I'm always happy to see someone actually admit error on his own side. Props to Sean Hackbarth for that.

But, um, on the other hand:

2. The letter's a little heavy on the prudential reasons and lighter than one might hope on the moral ones. Yes, Coulter might hurt conservatives, but is that really the point? It's more significant that she's a bigot, and that good people don't associate with bigots, much less adore them or make them their spokesmodels. The appeals to prudence in Hackbarth's letter make one wonder to what extent any conservative blowback against Coulter is a result of genuine moral outrage, and to what extent it's a strategic move.

2'. In defense of Hackbarth, however, such appeals to prudential considerations have become almost second nature at a time when there's some kind of weird, inarticulate, background moral skepticism in the zeitgeist. Just pointing out that something is wrong and giving moral reasons has, strangely, come to be regarded as insufficient. Furthermore, conservatives are, in general, more inclined to ask what's in it for me? than are liberals, and the letter is, after all, aimed at conservatives. So it's possible that moral concerns are the motive here, and prudential considerations are just being offered to help persuade the morally dim-witted. So we might want to cut them some slack here.

3. So, let me get this straight: 'raghead' wasn't enough, then?

4. I quote:
"Ann Coulter used to serve the movement well. She was telegenic, intelligent, and witty. She was also fearless: saying provocative things to inspire deeper thought and cutting through the haze of competing information has its uses. But Coulter’s fearlessness has become an addiction to shock value. She draws attention to herself, rather than placing the spotlight on conservative ideas."

Um... Where to begin? Ann Coulter is not particularly intelligent by any standard of intelligence I'm aware of. She's minimally articulate, but minimal articulateness is non-identical with intelligence. Spend a little time in academia--where a significant minority of people are articulate but not much brighter than average--if you're somehow unaware of this fact. Or consider Bush '43, who's probably a guy of about average intelligence, just inarticulate. (His problem is that he's incurious and intellectually dishonest--but he's got no less intellectual firepower per se than your average Joe, so far as I can tell.)

And she isn't fearless, she's vicious. And, quite possibly, unstable. Like so many other conservative celebrities, she's able to produce stream-of-consciousnes invective against liberals, but she can't tolerate being challenged. (Think, for example, of her melt-down on Crossfire when that notorious liberal Tucker Carlson tossed her the softest of softball questions about one of those "books" of hers.) Note to conservatives: viciousness isn't courage.

And anyone who thinks that Coulter "inspire[s] deeper thought," or that that's even what she aims at, is simply deluded. My guess is that Hackbarth is just saying that to help get conservatives to listen up; and I can live with that.

And as for "telegenic"--egad, man, you may need to get out of the house more.

5. As for the bit about how 'raghead' and 'faggot' "may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation’s premier conservative gathering"... Well, I can only respond to that with my sincerest possible huh?

O.k., so that's it. I'm not sure it's a good idea to harsh on Hackbarth given that what he's trying to do here is mostly good, but I find it annoying when people can't even criticize the most outlandish excesses of their own side without throwing elbows at the other guys. So although I'm inclined to go on about how, for example, basically everybody and his brother has known and said (for more-or-less ever) that words mean things, to attribute this fairly pedestrian thought to Rush Limbaugh, as if it were some discovery of his, is fairly laughable. But I won't.

Coulter is an idiot, a nut, and a bigot, and she's at least borderline unstable. It says quite a bit about contemporary American conservatism that she has become one of their celebrities. It also says a lot that whether or not they should dump her is controversial. But in the constellation of conservative quasi-intellectuals (motto: I'm not really an intellectual, but I play one on t.v....or at least on A.M. radio."), Coulter is not even close to being the worst offender. Whereas many on the right are fond of calling anyone they disagree with traitors, they're the only ones with actual traitors in their pseudo-intellectual celebrity pantheon. Coulter may be a nut, but compared to G. Gordon Liddy and Ollie North, she's practically a patriot...and practically sane.

Which, of course, doesn't mean that anyone who takes her seriously isn't an idiot.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Dubya Fatigue

Is it just me, or does anybody else feel like their outrage module has overheated and burned out? It's like policy disaster and scandal have simply become the norm. I can barely even get pissed off about anything any more. I'm just waiting for 2009 with grim determination.

But we can't just sit by for two years and let these guys run the country (and the world) farther into the ditch. Can we? Actually, I'm a bit surprised that there isn't a giant, standing anti-Bush rally on the Mall.

Jeez, even my complaints are becoming half-hearted.